Dogs may be in for a quarterback battle

In the minds of many fans, Georgia’s quarterback situation for next season is pretty clear-cut: Aaron Murray will be the starter, Zach Mettenberger will be the backup and Logan Gray, the only QB on the team with any game experience, will yield to the inevitable and switch to another position, possibly wide receiver, in order to get more playing time.

Nice and neat.

Aaron Murray (Bob Andres / AJC)

Aaron Murray (Bob Andres / AJC)

But that scenario might be in for some rewrites. First, the coaches indicate that whether Gray moves or not is up to him. You’d think he’d want to go into spring practice in the position he’ll play next fall, but he might decide to give the quarterback job one more try, at least through G-Day. And, who knows, if he’s still at QB come September, Mark Richt might decide to play it “safe” and at least start out the season with Gray.

That would not be a popular decision, but Richt has gone that route before with Joe T. back in Matthew Stafford’s freshman year.

Also, fan expectations might be shaken up in another way. Despite the fact that Murray got off to the faster start last spring and received more of the practice reps this season when Joe Cox took Wednesdays off to rest his arm, not everyone is convinced he’ll be Georgia’s starter. The other night on “The Dawg Report” on CSS, Kelin Johnson and Ray Goff seemed to think Mettenberger is likely to start because Murray fell behind in learning the offense while missing several weeks of practices last fall suffering from triceps tendonitis.

Murray is the more mobile of the two and more of a threat to run, but some observers think he’s a bit short. He’s listed at 6-foot-1, but that might be using the elastic ruler that’s often applied to quarterbacks. Still, he could counter that with his ability to roll out and throw downfield, which we saw in last year’s G-Day game.

Height certainly isn’t a problem for 6-foot-5 Mettenberger, who hails from Oconee County just outside Athens. I saw him play once in high school and he clearly towered over everyone else on the field. I also was impressed with how far he could throw. He has an NFL-caliber arm and reportedly throws a more catchable ball than the early Stafford did, but he came to Georgia needing more development than Floridian Murray, who played among a richer talent pool in high school. Mettenberger’s footwork, in particular, wasn’t very good.

Zach Mettenberger (Bob Andres / AJC)

Zach Mettenberger (Bob Andres / AJC)

“I think it’s going to be a race,” receiver A.J. Green told the Athens Banner-Herald. “Both of them look real good. Zach’s probably got the bigger arm, but Aaron is just prepared like he’s going to be a starter.”

Departing receiver Michael Moore said in the Athens paper that “Mettenberger is a prototype quarterback with a cannon of an arm. He’s like the Ryan Mallett-type kid if he gets everything together as far as mentally knowing the playbook. Aaron Murray is like the nitty-gritty guy with the pinpoint accuracy and has a little bit of mobility.” Not forgetting Gray, Moore adds: “Logan is just a guy that’s been here that has more mobility than all of them and is more of a dual-threat that puts a lot of stress on defenses.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has said that Murray needs to continue to work on progressing through his reads faster and understanding the offensive concepts, as well as getting used to working under center, since he operated out of the shotgun in high school. Mettenberger, Bobo says, has improved tremendously at not trying to rely just on his arm strength and putting more touch on the ball, but needs to continue to get quicker on his feet. Helping with that is that he’s trimmed down to about 232 pounds from 249 when he arrived at UGA.

Said Bobo in the ABH: “It’s going to be a fun spring.”

And Moore said he “wouldn’t be surprised if they go into the fall not really knowing who it is.”

Frankly, I’m hoping Gray goes ahead and makes the move to receiver or flanker. He has athletic ability but wasn’t at all impressive in his infrequent turns at quarterback this past season. And you’ve got to conclude that if Georgia’s coaches had thought he was capable of making a difference in a disappointing season, they would have played him more.

There no doubt will be rough spots in the Dogs’ quarterback play this fall, especially early on, because of the lack of game experience. But I think there’s a lot of upside in the choices Murray and Mettenberger offer Richt and Bobo. Whoever is the starter will have the advantage of working behind a veteran offensive line that proved adept at protecting the quarterback even when it was underperforming early last season. And in Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, the QB have a couple of backs who improved tremendously this past season and look to get even better.

Plus, of course, Georgia’s quarterback will have the phenomenally talented Green as a target.

Coming off a year when the Dogs were hampered by too many interceptions, Richt has indicated that “respect for the football” may be the deciding factor in who the quarterback is.

Despite what Johnson and Goff say, barring any more problems with the tendonitis I still think Murray is probably more likely to start, mainly because he’s the more mobile of the two and he’s known for his on-field confidence and gung-ho attitude. But down the road, I can easily see Mettenberger, who seems more of a pro prospect than Murray, behind center for the Dogs.

How do you see Georgia’s prospects at quarterback in 2010?

311 comments Add your comment

RED DOG 77

January 10th, 2010
12:03 am

P.S. Jeff, I am pretty sure Hershel Walker spelles his first name with just one L, I am well aware I am guilty of some misspelled words or a typo or two here and there, but I dont really care, you see, but you being JEFF and all, I am sure you would want to know. Speaking of Sure, mabe I should try some, mabe it wouldnt cause those unsightly whelps I get when I use underarm deodorant, the whelps really mess up the sleeveless shirt look that I look so good in, hope that last line didnt get you going ,if you know what I mean……sorry if it did . As for Hershel, not sure,theres that word again, if he uses underarm deodorant or not………but again…..JEFF…. thanks again from the entire BULLDOG NATION…concerning how we smell. as a little side note… the Cowpersons won tonight, ha thought I would forget didnt ya! wouldnt want to get you all excited using the B word.

NASH

January 10th, 2010
2:07 am

I watched the highlight videos for both guys and from what i saw murry is the man but he is super short and metteburger ( or what ever the guys name is) does have height and a hell of and arm plus hutson mason is a big time qb so lets see how this thing plays out rem at one time people where wondering why statford was starting and cox was riding the oak ofter the colorado game see what happens GO DAWGS!!!! WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOOF WOOF WOOF WOOOF WOOOF

RED DOG 77

January 10th, 2010
8:00 am

NASH, are you talking about the highlight videos under: bios of 09 signees? just wondered if you were aware of any other ones out there that I could watch. Thanks for your help. Also for a prototype qb Murray does seem a bit short, however, Ibelieve he is listed at 6ft. 1in. mabe thats a stretch, but wasnt David Green and Eric Zier about the same? I believe I would take either one of them in a flash, wouldnt you? I do agree though, Mettenberg sounds like a real hoss, sort of like the Mallett kid at Arkansas, but somewhere along the way seems I have read his accuracy is pretty poor….mabe CMR and Bobo can coach him up…..Regards, RED

tampadogfan

January 10th, 2010
10:06 am

don’t know where you folks get the idea that Murray is short. I’ve stood right next to him and he’s over 6 ft. The guy moves and throws great outside the pocket. Just wait.

Freshness and enthusiasm that are legit

January 10th, 2010
10:35 am

The two newer UGA Qbs bring a new freshness and enthusiasm to the team. That is often overlooked in such things. Joe Cox was the “hold your breath” QB for UGA this past year, because sometimes you end up with that kind of stand in situation. Last summer Aaron hurt his biceps tendon or something and it prevented him from getting in and so they red shirted him. Good! 2009 is over. Now? We have both ZM AND AM. I for one am glad.

These QB kids are good and will boost UGA to decent heights within two years. Logan Gray? Athletic and is better placed to be a receiver, punt returner,etc. He can help UGA in these spots.

UGA will be fine in 2010 and much better in 2011 ……………OUR D COACH WILL be the key. Can he motivate and inspire? Time will tell. His position coaches will be very,very important too.

I am for one am very excited about the UGA future in football and BASKETBALL.

Go Dogs.

Larry Munson

January 10th, 2010
11:27 am

These guys all are vying for the Eric Zeier award: A guy who QBed UGA for four years and came home from Jax four times with his tail between his legs. Oops, a bulldog cannot do that. Well, a guy who got his tail handed to him in four straight defeats.

DawgByte

January 10th, 2010
2:12 pm

I saw Mettenberger at the G-Day game and for him to be considered a contender for the starting role, he would require 100% improvement. In short he looked like a deer in an 18 wheelers high beams. Mettenberger is slower than Molasses in January. Murray looked way more polished to me and everyone else who saw him at G-Day.

I hope this shootout does not drag on into Fall practice. I hope Murray can solidify the starting role so we don’t have any controversies going into the season.

jessica

January 11th, 2010
6:32 pm

MURRAY IS THE NEXT UGA QB

farmerdave

January 14th, 2010
9:51 pm

Eligibility was the reason Murray nor Mett was used last year. Now we can get 4-5 years out of either of them when they make their first start if they choose to stay. Murray will be the next qb and will be for the forseeable future.

Beachdawg

January 17th, 2010
9:11 am

Not fair to label Gray a bust just yet. The kid threw six passes and was put into an impossible situation against Florida. He looked far better than Cox in last year’s G-Day game and, IMO, should have started. Let’s at least give him a chance.

GW Bush

January 19th, 2010
10:45 am